OP-ED: Robert E. Lee: remembering an American legend

By Calvin E. Johnson Jr.



America has always loved her heroes like: Baseball Legend-Babe Ruth, Golf Great-Ben Hogan, Movie Actor-John Wayne and…..

Wednesday, January 19, 2011, is the 204th birthday of General Robert E. Lee.


Young people will get a school holiday in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King whose birthday is January 15th. But, will anyone tell them that January 19th is also the birthday of Robert E. Lee?



Booker T. Washington, America’s great Black-American Educator wrote in 1910, quote “The first white people in America, certainly the first in the South to exhibit their interest in the reaching of the Negro and saving his soul through the medium of the Sunday-school were Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.” unquote



During Robert E. Lee’s 100th birthday in 1907, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., a former Union Army Commander and grandson of United States President John Quincy Adams, spoke in tribute to Robert E. Lee at Washington and Lee College’s Lee Chapel in Lexington, Virginia. His speech was printed in both Northern and Southern newspapers and is said to had lifted Lee to a renewed respect among the American people.

 


Robert E. Lee-Stonewall Jackson Day events were held Saturday, January 15, 2011, in Lexington, Virginia that includes a Memorial at Lee Chapel featuring Guest Speaker Kenny J. Rowlette with topic: Opposites In Command—The Legendary Partnership of Lee and Jackson. For additional information go to: http://leejacksonday.webs.com/

 


And the Georgia Division Sons of Confederate Veterans will sponsor their 24th Annual Robert E. Lee birthday celebration on Saturday, January 22, 2011, in the Legislative Chambers of Georgia’s Old Capitol in Milledgeville, Georgia that will begin with a parade to the Old Capitol at 10:45 AM.

 

Many more events are planned for Robert E. Lee….

 

who was born at “Stratford” in Westmoreland County, Virginia, on January 19, 1807. The winter was cold and fireplaces were little help for Robert's mother, Ann Hill (Carter) Lee.

 

Ann Lee named her son "Robert Edward" after her two brothers.

 

Robert E. Lee undoubtedly acquired his love of country from those who had lived during the American Revolution. His father, "Light Horse" Harry, was a hero of the revolution and served as Governor of Virginia and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Members of his family also signed the Declaration of Independence.

 

Lee was educated in the schools of Alexandria, Virginia. In 1825, he received an appointment to West Point Military Academy. He graduated in 1829, second in his class and without a single demerit.

 

Robert E. Lee wed Mary Anna Randolph Custis in June 1831, two years after his graduation from West Point. Robert and Mary had grown up together. Mary was the daughter of George Washington Parke Custis, the grandson of Martha Washington and the adopted son of George Washington.

 

Mary was an only child; therefore, she inherited Arlington House, across the Potomac from Washington, where she and Robert raised seven children.

 

In 1836, Lee was appointed to first lieutenant. In 1838, with the rank of captain, Lee fought valiantly in the War with Mexico and was wounded at the Battle of Chapultepec.

 

He was appointed superintendent of West Point in 1852 and is considered one of the best superintendents in that institution's history.

 

General Winfield Scott offered Robert E. Lee command of the Union Army in 1861, but he refused. He said, “I cannot raise my hand against my birthplace, my home, my children.”

Lee served as adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and then commanded the legendary Army of Northern Virginia.

 

After four terrible years of death and destruction, General Robert E. Lee met General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia, and ended their battles.

 

In the fall of 1865, Lee was offered and accepted the presidency of troubled Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. The school was renamed Washington and Lee in his honor.

 

Robert E. Lee died at 9:30 on the morning of October 12, 1870, at Washington-Lee College.

 

He is buried in a chapel on the school grounds with his family and near his favorite horse, Traveller.

 

President Theodore Roosevelt described General Robert E. Lee as "the very greatest of all the great captains that the English-speaking peoples have brought forth." 




Johnson, of Kennesaw, GA,  is a speaker, writer, author of the book “When America Stood for God, Family and Country”—looking to Republish and member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Email: cjohnson1861@bellsouth.net



Editor's Note: (from David M. Kinchen):  As a counterpoint to Johnson's praise of Lee, I'd like to present another great Virginian, who stayed loyal to the oath he took when he became a U.S. Army officer, Gen. George H. Thomas 1816-1870). According to his Wikipedia entry, Thomas, West Point class of 1840, served in the Mexican-American War and later chose to remain with the Union Army for the Civil War.  He won one of the first Union victories in the war, at Mill Springs, KY,  and served in important subordinate commands at Perryville and Stones River. His stout defense at the Battle of Chickamauga in Tennessee  in 1863 saved the Union Army from being completely routed, earning him his most famous nickname, the "Rock of Chickamauga." He followed soon after with a dramatic breakthrough on Missionary Ridge in the Battle of Chattanooga. In the Franklin-Nashville (TN) campaign of 1864, he achieved one of the most decisive victories of the war, destroying the army of Confederate General John Bell Hood at the Battle of Nashville. (Fort Hood  in central Texas is named after John Bell Hood; two forts, one in Kentucky, the other in Arizona, were named after Thomas).

Despite his successful record in the Civil War, Thomas failed to achieve the historical acclaim of some of his contemporaries, such as U.S. Grant and William T. Sherman. He developed a reputation as a slow, deliberate general who shunned self-promotion and who turned down advancements in position when he did not think they were justified. After the war, he did not write memoirs to advance his legacy.
Comments powered by Disqus